The TIBCO Women's Pro Cycling Team is going into the 2012 season with two major focuses, sending athletes to the London Olympic Games and winning the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar (NRC). The team added four women to the a core of returning riders and also had to juggle North American and European racing schedules.
"The roster isn't really that different from last year. We have eight returning riders, and looking at the fact that Amanda Miller was with us before, I call that nine." Team TIBCO founder and manager Linda Jackson told Cyclingnews with a smile.
The team gathered at sponsor Specialized Bicycles in Morgan Hill last week to get to know each other at the start of their training camp and season. 2010 Team TIBCO member Amanda Miller is returning after a breakout year in 2011 on the international scene with the HTC-Highroad team. Also new to the squad are 2011 Canadian National Road Champion Véronique Fortin, Lauren Hall, and Jen Purcell.
The roster changes fulfilled two different aims for Jackson, the first was to "add depth to our sprinting and to our climbing" and the second was all about teamwork and cohesion.
"We need to think about the overall team dynamics because guess what last year wasn't so good. We had a lot of individual players with individual goals." Jackson continued with a specific example.
"We went to a big race in the Southeast, really important for us, it was at night and this girl was doing hard intervals on her trainer in the morning. What does that tell your teammates? That you don't care about them. I didn't want any of that this year. I wanted people that wanted to be on a team, that wanted to win as a team, and learn to win together as a team."
Returning riders include Olympians Erinne Willock and Joanne Kiesanowski, Meredith Miller, Megan Guarnier, Tara Whitten, Kendall Ryan, Samantha Schneider and Jennifer Wheeler.
The original vision for the team for 1996 Olympian Jackson has not changed. "This team was founded to help young girls and women achieve their goals and dreams of getting to the Olympics."
With two riders, Guarnier and Amanda Miller on the US Long team, the team has a chance to send an athlete to the London games but first, UCI points must be garnered. The United States needs to finish as one of the top five countries in the UCI rankings by May 30 to be able to send a four-rider squad to the Olympic Games.
"We're going to go over to Europe twice before the end of May, that's with a goal of getting as many points for the US as we can. Because if they can send four to the Olympics, one of our riders has a good chance of being that fourth. We've got a couple on the long team so why do as much as we can and get as many American riders over there as we can, try to get points, try to be in the top 5 countries and maybe one of our girls can make the team." explained Jackson.
In addition to the TIBCO European schedule, both Guarnier and Miller will also be racing with the USA National team this spring.
"We have our work cut out for us to get in that top five and I think we have some pretty strong squads going over to Europe and it will be great with Team TIBCO, they're really getting us over there a lot. And working really hard with the National team to make sure that we're getting over there as much as possible and help us with those points. The Olympics is a big goal and always has been a big goal for TIBCO." Guarnier said.
Guarnier, who was an automatic nomination to the USA Olympic long team with her overall win at the Giro Toscana will head over to Europe on February 19.
"I go to London with the National team for a recon camp, and then Belgium for three races with the National team. TIBCO comes over and we do the Drenthe races, and then we come back for Redlands and then we go back to Europe with TIBCO for Flanders and Fleche Wallonne and then I'll do the Luxembourg races with the National team. And then back to Gila with TIBCO." Guarnier explained.
Miller, a discretionary selection to the long team, will follow a similar early schedule but is also looking ahead to the Rio de Janeiro Games in four years. "It's definitely my dream to get to the Olympics, whether it is this year or 2016. I'm focused for 2016 because I think the course might suit me a little better but I'm still going to try my hardest this year and do what I can to get there."
"I have my work cut out for me." replied Guarnier when asked her thoughts of making it to the Olympic squad. "There's a lot of talent in America and everybody wants to go to the Olympics. It's a matter of trying to be consistent but yet be consistently at the top."
Domestic priorities still front and centre
The NRC is the focus of the team while racing at home, as are some of the new national criterium calendar (NCC) races. "There are some really big NCC races and so we'll definitely go to those but we're not looking at the NCC title, we're looking at the NRC title." Jackson said. "I just want to go out there and take it race by race. We want to win a lot of races this year, we want to put it all together this year."
Jackson admits that she had to juggle a tight schedule with the Redlands Bicycle Classic, in March and the Tour of the Gila, in early May, being important races for the team and sponsors.
Racing at home will allow Miller to fine-tune her GC leadership skills. "My goal is to win, I haven't really been in the position to win GC races over here, I'd like to do well at some of the stage races, like Gila, Cascade."
"I learned a lot last year so I'm hoping to bring that here and to help the girls and hopefully help myself develop into a team leader. Later on in my career, maybe go back to Europe and be a team leader over there." Miller added.
As for Guarnier, she hopes to continue from where she left off last year. "I try not to over-think it because over-thinking it you can get pretty nervous about things. Just to continue to improve, continue to train hard because if you train hard and you do the work, the results will come. You don't have the control over the races, you don't have control over what happens in the races but if you can do the training and do the work, you should be there."
Expansion and growth?
Meanwhile, Jackson is also thinking of the future. "As I look to expand the team for next year, I will do that with the goal of still being a strong North American team but I'm going to pick up more races in Europe next year. We're going to hopefully bump it up another notch next year too."
For Jackson, it's been a gradual build-up working hand in hand with long-term sponsors TIBCO and Silicon Valley Bank (SVB).
"It's what we always wanted to do, back in the Brooke (Miller) days, it was always our goal to get to Europe, we didn't get there, it takes a lot of time. I'm really proud of the fact that we have TIBCO and Silicon Valley Bank for seven and six years respectively, they've been with us a long time and we've slowly build it up. Our goal is to keep on building it up and going to the next level, to do that you have to meet your partners' needs."
Jackson added, "The reason you see so many teams just churning, they get sponsorship dollars in but they don't get the ROI [Return on Investement] for that sponsor, whatever that ROI is. For women's racing, that ROI is not necessarily media impressions, it might be something else depending on the sponsor. I think that the team has done a good job of meeting TIBCO's needs, Silicon Valley Bank's needs, we'll continue to work on that, continue to build on that.